It's that time of year when half the music industry pats itself on the back and the other half tilts its head and says, "huh?" Nominations for the 2015 Grammy Awards will be announced Friday morning, with a few categories saved for a special nominees concert that night (where we expect Sam Smith to slay). After Daft Punk walked away with a handful this past year and Smith's career was launched off the back of a Disclosure single, we're expecting dance artists to get some extra attention. Still, we know how the Recording Academy works—less smooth than a vintage Moog—so we're couching our predictions with both strong critical recommendations and a grasp of reality. After all, this is an award whose prestige is still in danger of being Al Walser-ed into irrelevance.
Best Dance Recording
Calvin Harris, Alesso & Hurts: "Under Control"
The Grammys want to like Calvin Harris (he's been nominated before), and while it's likely that they'll throw a bone to his monster hit of epic obviousness, "Summer," this is the record that deserves a nod. Released in late 2013, it stands as Alesso's finest in the last year as well, plus Theo Hurts' tenor growl is one that balances the EDM-ness of the chorus, which puts Grammy voters at ease.
Disclosure featuring Mary J. Blige: "F For You"
There's a reason Interscope released this version of this track last January: to build some buzz for the duo's nomination for their debut album, Settle. This is a collab that inspired Mary J. to make a full album of London club-inspired music, so its relevance is sustained. Given how much the Academy loves the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul as well as unexpected collabs, expect this rightful nomination and even a possible win.
Duke Dumont featuring Jax Jones: "I Got U"
The many Grammy voters who have a tear in their eye for Whitney no doubt love hearing her sampled on this record. Dumont had a surprise nomination last year, so he's on the radar, but with a delayed album release, it's possible nobody is pushing for this track's recognition. Still, it's deserved and wouldn't be unexpected.
A monster hit and a record that on its own converted indie kids into dance music fans, "Smile" is the late 2013 single that has endured a year on. With a Grammy on his shelf for Britney's "Toxic," Galantis' Christian Karlsson (aka Bloodshy) is a known entity for the Recording Academy and one whose predilection for pop hooks on dance beats that can assure them of their tastes.
While her eventual album, Sound of a Woman, was a lukewarm rush job, the power of this single is undeniable. The timing of it couldn't be better either: the album came out too late to be eligible, but its promotion only served to remind voters of the single's greatness. We'd love to see her perform it on that Grammy stage too… but now we know we're just dreaming.
Best Dance/Electronica Album
Cut Copy: Free Your Mind
Cut Copy has been recognized before (for 2011's Zonoscope), so their sprawling Aussie love fest from late 2013 should be in contention. It's not their finest album, but it's a worthy competitor if only because it is a true album and not just a collection of singles.
The Glitch Mob: Love Death Immortality
Because The Glitch Mob are so DIY, it's unlikely they have anybody working this record to remind the Academy that the LA trio had a Top 20 debut with this, their sophomore LP. While they lack the celebrity of Skrillex (and the identifiable hair), it's his six previous trophies that should prove that the Academy can handle some bass. Whether they choose to seek it out or not is another matter.
Porter Robinson: Worlds
Not only should Porter Robinson be nominated in this category, he should win. There is no other album from this year that attempts and executes what Robinson has on Worlds. He has shown how an artist can go from EDM banger-rager to song-oriented, inspiration-driven, fiercely meticulous electronic composer. It's a game-changer and for that reason alone, this is a shoe-in, but it's also really cool and validates the widely-held faith many have had in his talents and ability since his first single in 2010.
Rökysopp & Robyn: Do It Again
Just making the cut for inclusion at six songs, this EP is exactly the kind of electronic music that the Academy likes: slightly Euro, hook-laden, and fronted by "the most killingest pop star on the planet" (her words). Anyone who dismisses this mini album simply hasn't basked in the grandeur that is "Monument" and/or has no soul.
Underrated and underperformed, Recess is on the shortlist if only because Grammy voters like to reaffirm their past choices. Despite that defaultism, it's actually a good record that champions a variety of styles from across the dance music spectrum and the world (we see you G-Dragon and CL). Sonny has won for less effort in this category before, so it's only fair that he be recognized again.
Best Remixed Recording
Flume: "Tennis Court" (Lorde)
The Grammy's feel really good about embracing Lorde last year and that love fest is expected to continue for the singles she released in this year's eligibility window. Accordingly, Flume's masterful rework of "Tennis Court" is likely on voters' iPods and for its embrace of the young star's voice and the swag he gives her on this track, it deserves a nomination.
Jon Hopkins: "Midnight" (Coldplay)
Again, in this category, the original artist dictates likelihood of nomination and Chris Martin and co are expected to be in the big categories; accordingly Hopkins should be in this one. His second time working with the band yielded some of their best work in over a decade and proved that Avicii isn't the only kind of producer who can crossover into the mainstream (and shouldn't be).
Keys N Krates: "All The Time" (Tove Lo)
Most of the love for this song will go to the Hippie Sabotage remix. But Keys N Krates refix predates that one and embodies the bootleg mindset that dance music—and remixes—should be about. Republic Records is working Lo hard in major categories so whichever remixer of hers ends up here is on their own. If we had an A&R budget for KnK, they'd have it all for this.
Sasha: "Hey Now" (London Grammar)
With his unexpected take on this London Grammar tune, Sasha reinvigorated his profile on the dance scene as well as in the crossover regions of the musicsphere. Without treating Hannah Reid's voice with kidgloves, Sasha demonstrates his technical ability as a producer but more importantly his unquestioned passion for a beautiful vocal.
DJ Shadow & Salva, "90s Music" (Kimbra)
The Academy gave Kimbra a kangaroo's pouch-worth of statues for her 2011 collab with Gotye soshe really is somebody that they used to know (sorry, had to). The Golden Echo is a fine album but in the crowded pop field will likely be overlooked. Shadow and Salva, however, are primed for some major recognition here as their remix cherishes the singer's original while giving it a much-adorded edge.
Producer of the Year
Bloodshy (Galantis, Katy Perry)
It's a longshot, but Christian Karlsson deserves inclusion here, not just for work on his own band but for enduring what we can only imagine was a nightmare of a session with Katy Perry. Just kidding, she's probably lovely. But this category is often treated as a lifetime achievement of sorts, and Bloodshy's body of work is worth of that recognition.
Cashmere Cat (Ariana Grande, Charli XCX, Kid Ink, Ludacris, Tinashe)
The new R&B is dancey and Norwegian. Deal with it. In a series of album cuts and minor singles, Cashmere Cat has created a niche for himself where there wasn't one before. It's probably too soon for him to win, but what he does with a synth and a vocal is far more impressive than whoever presses record for Jack Antonoff's guitars.
Zedd (Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga, Zedd)
Our little German friend is all grown up and with one Grammy in his pocket (for "Clarity," obvs), he's a familiar face to the Academy. His feature on Ariana's "Break Free" was a delightful way to open the VMAs, but more importantly, it completed the thought he started on his work for Lady Gaga (which will not be recognized on its own because #artpopfail). Lighting strikes twice at the Grammy Awards (and often more than that), so the guy who embodies "EDM" has a definite shot at a second award and in this category, he should.
Best New Artist
"Rather Be" has become rather ubiquitous and while other artists excel in the dance categories, Clean Bandit's genre-blending make them ripe for a nod in this major category.
It's sad but true: Grammy voters will know her because she dates a movie star. But that's just how Twigs gets her foot in the door. After that, the originality of her debut album (and wide critical acclaim) make her a contender.
"Animals" released in last year's eligibility window, but with his "Gold Skies" EP, this will be defined as Garrix's breakout year. You can bet your bottom glowstick that Scooter Braun and co are working him to the voters, as they should. Garrix is young and untested but the promise of his talent is real.
When Christina Aguilera won this category in 2000, she remarked that she only had one eligible single so she didn't expect to win. Maybe Kiesza is the Xtina of 2014? With "Hideaway" alone it's a longshot, but consider "Take U There" and her writing for Gorgon City and her stock rises.
Every time her name is announced on Friday, Tove Lo needs to send a prayer of praise to the rave gods. While she is a pop singer for sure, it's the festival scene that made her career come to life over the past 18 months. You're welcome!
Record of the Year
"Break Free" (Ariana Grande featuring Zedd)
Ariana brought Zedd to outer space and he brought the prom princess to the club. If only one dance record makes it into the major categories, it should be this one and it should be Zedd. Yes, it's catchy and a little cheesy, but those last twenty seconds are a higher heaven than Ari's soprano.
The 57th Annual Grammy Awards will be presented on February 8, 2015. Nominees are announced December 5, 2014.
Zel McCarthy is the Editor-in-Chief of THUMP and Tweets about his Grammys at @ZelMcCarthy.